Wednesday, September 21, 2022

Minneapolis/St. Paul Business Journal

Thirty-one years after putting together his first deal for Oppidan Investment Co., CEO Joe Ryan is still working with some of those same investors on deals today.

These partnerships have been key to Oppidan’s success, Ryan said.

He launched the real estate company in 1991. Under his leadership, Excelsior-based Oppidan has expanded into new development types and markets, becoming a leader in real estate development locally and nationally.

Over its 31 years, Oppidan developed 566 projects valued at more than $4.3 billion. These projects total 26.4 million square feet and are located in 40 states and Canada. Included in these figures is an industrial portfolio being constructed on three development sites in Minnesota and North Carolina. The project totals over $157 million and includes 1.55 million square feet

Building Oppidan into what it is today wasn’t easy, with the Great Recession posing big challenges.

"There was a day in January of 2010 where I wasn't sure we were going to keep this thing running," he said.

However, Ryan ensured his commitments to lenders, partners and employees were fulfilled.

"My dad said, 'No matter what they're saying in The Wall Street Journal … you still got to get up, put your feet on the ground and go.'"

This philosophy prepared Ryan and his company for pandemic-influenced challenges, like inflation andlabor shortages in the senior living communities it operates with Ebenezer and Watermark Retirement Communities.

Throughout Oppidan’s expansion into new markets and endeavors, Ryan has kept his sights set on being a good leader — one who offers flexibility to employees, ensures they’re well-compensated, and focuses on crafting company culture, he said.

“I never went to graduate school on how to be an employer. I try to be a leader. I try to do things the right way,” Ryan said. “A combination of all that has served us very well.”

Ryan has ensured Oppidan’s investments go beyond real estate. He created the Pillars Fund, which supports memory care programming for people living in Oppidan-constructed senior living communities.

So far, the company has invested $500,000 in the fund.

“The Pillars is near and dear to my heart,” Ryan said. “The Pillars Fund, alongside of our senior housing [developments], go hand in hand."

Ryan has been involved in several community groups and nonprofits, and used his development expertise to give back. This includes his leadership on the development of new hockey rinks at Minnetonka High School.

Since his real estate career started with a company formerly known as St. Paul Cos., Ryan’s interest in the industry has remained.

“The business was exciting and dynamic, and there's never a day it's the same business — and that's what I love about it,” Ryan said.


Quick takes

One thing I always have with me: Cellphone

Favorite local restaurant for a business lunch: Takeout from local restaurants to have at the office — more efficient

Theme song: "Wagon Wheel," by Darius Rucker

A CEO I admire: Bob Iger, Disney. [It's] all about the experience of the customer and the team.


Deeper dive

What was the most important lesson you learned from your first management position? Trust is the core of success.

What’s the most stressful or challenging part of your job? Having an atmosphere that breeds clear communication

How do you cope with those demanding aspects of your career? Workout every day. Strive for balance and always realize it’s not the most important part of my life — and do it with a smile.

What are the three biggest challenges facing your industry and/or company right now? Uncertainty, personnel, political infighting

What strategies do you have for mitigating those challenges? Wake up every morning, ignore the press, and get to work. We can’t control what we can’t control!!

What are your top three goals for the year ahead, personally and/or professionally? A healthy family and Oppidan team; a life of balance; have more fun — work hard, play hard.


Fast facts

  • Age: 64
  • Years with company and as CEO: 31
  • Education: Bachelor of Science, business administration, and Master of Business, finance, University of St Thomas
  • Family: Wife, Tracy Constable; daughter, Kelly Allman (Matt); sons, Tom Ryan (Lyndsey) and Jack Ryan (Aly); many grandchildren
  • Hobbies: Boating, golfing, biking, fishing, hunting, traveling and cooking
  • Volunteer activities: Alzheimer’s Association, Children’s Minnesota
  • Employees at your organization: 42

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